May 8, 2005
My Give-A-Damn’s busted
No, don’t take that title too seriously. My Give-A-Damn is, in fact, not busted, but I recently heard a song with that title, and I thought it was funny. Yes, it was a country song. Only country music can have titles like that, and “She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy,” and “No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problems.” Such is the current state of country radio, which, I am not ashamed to admit, I listen to whenever I travel.
When I visit schools, the students often ask me what I listen to. When I say Tool, they can relate to that (or at least the guitarists can), but when I add that I also enjoy the occasional country group, I often receive blank stares. I don’t listen to much classical music, as it often feels like work. If I’m writing a piece in a particular style, though, like a cowboy-themed piece like “Sasparilla,” or a bluegrass-inspired piece like “Wrong-Mountain Stomp,” I’ll often listen to a whole lot of music in that style just to get it in my ear. It doesn’t mean that I’ll keep listening to nonstop Gene Autry after I finish the “research,” but in some cases — like the bluegrass I discovered when writing “Wrong Mountain Stomp” — I develop a real appreciation for a new kind of music, and it finds a permanent home on my iPod.
So, here I am in Seattle, for the third time in roughly 6 months. This is my last visit through my “Music Alive” residency. So far, so good. I arrived late on Friday night, checked into my nice bed & breakfast, and headed straight to bed, as I had to be up bright & early on Saturday morning for a rehearsal with the Youth Symphony. Rehearsal was great. The players are awesome, and they’re making “Antiphonal Dances” sound about as good as it can.
Hearing the piece sound so good, I again felt the need to rewrite the work for wind ensemble. I think it would work great — big brass chorales, antiphonal brass choir, chattering wind parts. It’s a big piece — 15 minutes — and nobody has expressed interest in such a thing yet, but hopefully I can convince somebody. I’ve been considering “windestrating” a movement at a time for various band commissions, but I kind of want to keep the whole piece together, like a symphony. It’s another project for the long-term, like re-writing and expanding my Percussion Concerto.
But back to Seattle. One of the highlights of rehearsal was during the break, when I got a chance to hang with the bass section. These guys rule. One of them told me before rehearsal that Antiphonal Dances was “the coolest piece I’ve ever played.” Well, that’s pretty cool. When I talked to them during break, they offered to pool their money (they had about $26 total, plus one guy offered his sandwich and his shoes) to commission a double bass concerto.
Then they told me their story line for “Antiphonal Dances.” Apparently, it’s about a scientist whose son becomes ill with a rare disease. In the first movement, terrorists infect the son with a virus. (Very timely, I thought.) In the second movement, the father is distraught, as he mourns the expected death of his son. In the final movement, though, he finds the cure. In their scenario, the “movie” ends with a freeze-frame of the father and cured son, laughing together. Brilliant.